Self-Driving Cars

What Everyone Needs To Know  

Autonomous vehicles (AVs), also referred to as self-driving cars, show promise in enhancing road safety by minimizing accidents caused by human mistakes. Despite this potential, the technology remains in a developmental phase, evidenced by several notable incidents involving these vehicles. These occurrences have prompted a closer examination of AV technology and a push for more stringent safety regulations. Generally perceived as safe, autonomous vehicles still require ongoing research and advancements to fully assure their reliability and safety for broad usage.

What Defines an Autonomous Vehicle?

An autonomous vehicle, commonly referred to as a self-driving car, is a technological marvel designed to transport people and goods without the need for human intervention in driving. These vehicles are equipped with a suite of sensors, cameras, radar, and lidar systems to perceive their surroundings. Additionally, sophisticated software algorithms process this data, enabling the car to make informed decisions about its operation.

Autonomous vehicles are categorized into various levels of automation from: Level 0 (no automation) to Level 5 (complete automation). Each level signifies the extent of the vehicle’s ability to drive itself under certain conditions, with higher levels indicating greater autonomy. As this technology continues to advance, it’s crucial to understand the capabilities and limitations of each level of autonomous vehicle, particularly in terms of safety, legal considerations, and the driver’s role. This knowledge is essential for consumers, policymakers, and enthusiasts alike as we navigate towards a future where self-driving cars become a common sight on our roads.

  1. Level 1 (Driver Assistance): The vehicle has basic driver-assist functions such as cruise control or lane-keeping assist, but the driver must be engaged and control the vehicle at all times.


  1. Level 2 (Partial Automation): The vehicle can control both steering and acceleration/deceleration, but the driver must remain engaged with the driving task and monitor the environment at all times.


  1. Level 3 (Conditional Automation): The vehicle can perform all driving tasks under certain conditions, but the driver must be ready to take control when the system requests.


  1. Level 4 (High Automation): The vehicle can perform all driving tasks in certain conditions without human intervention, but it might require a human driver in more complex environments like urban areas.


  1. Level 5 (Full Automation): The vehicle is fully autonomous in all driving scenarios and conditions. No human intervention is required at any time, and there may not even be driving controls in the vehicle.

What Autonomy Level Characterizes the Majority of Today’s Self-Driving Cars?

The majority of self-driving cars currently on the road are characterized by Level 2 and Level 3 autonomy. Level 2, known as “partial automation,” encompasses vehicles equipped with advanced driver-assist systems that can control steering, acceleration, and braking under certain conditions. These systems include features like adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist. However, it’s crucial to note that in Level 2 vehicles, the driver must remain actively engaged in the driving process, constantly monitoring the environment and being ready to take over control of the vehicle at any moment.

Level 3 vehicles, labeled as “conditional automation,” represent a more advanced stage of autonomy. In these cars, the system can handle all driving tasks in specific scenarios, such as highway driving. This level of autonomy allows the vehicle to make informed decisions about speed, navigation, and even overtaking other vehicles. However, similar to Level 2, the driver’s role remains significant in Level 3 vehicles. The driver must be prepared to intervene and take control of the vehicle when the conditions exceed the system’s capabilities or in situations where the autonomous system requests human intervention.

It’s important to recognize that while these levels of autonomy offer a glimpse into the future of self-driving technology, they are not fully autonomous. The dream of completely autonomous, driverless vehicles – represented by Level 5 autonomy – remains in the development and testing phase. Level 5 vehicles would be capable of navigating all driving conditions without any human input, but they are not yet a reality on public roads.

The presence of Level 2 and Level 3 autonomous vehicles on the roads today marks a significant step towards a more automated future. However, it also underscores the importance of ongoing development, rigorous testing, and a gradual approach to integrating these technologies into everyday road use, ensuring safety and reliability for all road users.

Is It Safe to Watch Videos or Sleep in Current Self-Driving Cars?

The question of whether it’s safe to engage in activities like watching videos or sleeping in today’s self-driving cars is a matter of significant importance, especially considering the current levels of vehicle autonomy on the road. Most self-driving cars in operation now are at Level 2 or Level 3 autonomy. This means that, while these vehicles are equipped with advanced driver-assist systems capable of controlling speed, steering, and sometimes even navigation, the driver’s attention and readiness to intervene are essential.

At Level 2, or partial automation, the vehicle can perform functions like adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping. However, the driver must constantly monitor the driving environment and be prepared to take control of the vehicle instantly if the situation demands it. Similarly, Level 3 vehicles, which offer conditional automation, can handle more complex driving tasks under certain conditions but still require the driver to be alert and ready to intervene.

Given these levels of autonomy, it is currently not recommended, and indeed can be unsafe, to watch videos or sleep while in a self-driving car. The primary reason is that the technology, as it exists today, does not support full detachment from the driving task. The driver must remain vigilant and ready to take over at a moment’s notice, which would not be possible if they were sleeping or deeply engrossed in a video.

Furthermore, some manufacturers have implemented driver monitoring systems to ensure that the driver is paying attention. These systems, often using cameras and sensors, can detect if the driver is not looking at the road or appears to be disengaged. However, these systems are not foolproof and are designed as an aid, not a replacement, for an attentive driver.

In conclusion, the current level of technology in self-driving cars necessitates active driver engagement and attention. Watching videos or sleeping in these vehicles is not advisable and poses safety risks. As technology evolves towards higher levels of autonomy, these restrictions may change, but for now, driver vigilance remains paramount.

Evaluating the Legality and Safety of Operating Self-Driving Cars While Medicated or Intoxicated and Its Impact on Accident Liability

The question of operating self-driving cars while under the influence of medication or intoxication raises significant legal and safety concerns. Legally, the operation of any vehicle, autonomous or not, requires the driver to be in a state fit to take control if necessary. This legal requirement holds true even for vehicles with advanced automation features.

For self-driving cars, particularly those at Level 2 or Level 3 autonomy, the driver’s ability to intervene is a critical safety component. These vehicles are designed to assist with driving, not completely replace the driver. Operating them while medicated or intoxicated not only impairs this critical intervention ability but also contravenes road safety laws. Intoxication or impairment by medication while behind the wheel is illegal and dangerous, regardless of the vehicle’s automation level.

In terms of accident liability, the presence of autonomous driving features does not absolve a driver who is intoxicated or impaired. Legal responsibility still largely rests with the driver, especially in cases where the driver’s input or oversight is required. In an accident scenario, being medicated or intoxicated in a self-driving car could significantly affect the driver’s liability, potentially leading to legal repercussions similar to those faced when driving a traditional vehicle under the influence.

Overall, while self-driving technology continues to advance, the need for sober and alert drivers remains paramount, both for legal compliance and for ensuring safety on the roads.

If you’ve been injured by anyone who was driving a self-driving car, or injured in any type of motor vehicle accident at no fault of your own, call us at (855) 962-4573 for a 100% Free Consultation.  



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